There are people who report a sensitivity to electromagnetic fields. Although it has been difficult for the environmental health and medical communities to define, individuals with electromagnetic sensitivity report various symptoms including but not limited to fatigue, weakness, neurological issues, immunological issues, gastrointestinal issues, increased irritability, lack of ability to think clearly and quickly, sleep disturbance, overall malaise, and anxiety. Despite the medical community's difficulty in defining electromagnetic sensitivity, individuals with the condition may benefit from job accommodations.
Accommodating Employees with Electrical Sensitivity
The following is a quick overview of some of the job accommodations that might be useful for people with electrical sensitivity. For a more in depth discussion, askJAN.org. To discuss an accommodation situation with a consultant, contact JAN directly.
What are employers' responsibilities?
Employers need to make reasonable accommodations for employees experiencing electrical sensitivity. Here are some recommendations:
- Allow communication via typewriter or handwritten notes rather than via computer or cover the computer with Plexiglas or other shielding material.
- Provide headset/handset extenders or alternate headsets to lengthen the distance between devices that trigger symptoms and the employee’s body.
- Change the employee’s shift to allow for less exposure to others’ devices.
- Relocate workplace away from areas where symptoms are triggered. This may include limiting certain types of devices in the vicinity of the employee’s workstation.
- Allow working from home (Note: Other options should be explored first to keep the employee in the workplace unless the employee prefers to work from home).
- Allow the employee to meet with others in areas where triggers are minimized or allow remote access to meetings or activities that must take place in areas that trigger symptoms.
- Provide wired telephones and network connections.
- Provide building-wide and/or workspace shielding of equipment and devices, for example, add filters to fluorescent lights and tape electrical cords.
- Individuals with electrical sensitivity may also experience limitations from fragrance sensitivity and/or photosensitivity.
Since many accommodations for electrical sensitivity involve environmental adaptations,
see Oklahoma ABLE Tech’s inventory of environmental adaptations – 100 devices are available!
Rob Carr, ICT Accessibility Program Manager
Linda Jaco, Associate Director for Sponsored Programs